Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen is refusing to back down amid heightened tensions between the island nation and Communist China.

Speaking in Taipei during the island’s national day celebrations, Tsai said her government will not “act rashly” but “there should be absolutely no illusions that the Taiwanese people will bow to pressure”.

“The more we achieve, the greater the pressure we face from China,” she said.

The president vowed to bolster the country’s defences to “ensure that nobody can force Taiwan to take the path China has laid out for us”.

She argued China’s path offers “neither a free and democratic way of life for Taiwan nor sovereignty.”

Tsai’s speech followed a rare display of the country’s defence capabilities, which included a parade of a range of weaponry such as missile launchers and armoured vehicles.

A day before Taiwan’s national day speech, Chinese Chairman Xi Jinping vowed once again to reach “peaceful reunification” with the democratic nation.

“No one should underestimate the Chinese people’s strong determination, will and capability to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Xi said.

China immediately denounced Tsai’s speech, claiming the Taiwan president incited confrontation and distorted the facts. 

In the last few weeks, tensions between the two countries have reached an all-time high. Beijing has repeatedly entered Taiwan’s air defence zone with advanced fighters and bombers. In its latest incursion, as many as 150 planes took part of the military exercise.

Last week, a joint military exercise from six western allies, including Canada, attempted to send a message to China. Off the Japanese island of Okinawa, 17 ships, including a Canadian frigate, partook in a one-day exercise in a demonstration of solidarity with Taiwan. 

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Harrison Faulkner is producer and journalist for True North based in Toronto.

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